Last year, in the middle of a dinner with a friend, before social distancing was a thing, the conversation turned to how she was disheartened by the lack of communication in one of her relationships. “But you know, she’s a Virgo, so I had to approach it differently,” was her last note on the matter—before we moved onto how our careers were treating us.
With no booze on the table, just two educated women of colour in their twenties and thirties, the summary, though quizzical to some, didn’t make me think twice. Defining someone’s characteristics through their star sign has become a common part of our generation’s lexicon. Summing up personality traits is not just for those who have found and made space for themselves on the internet but for millennials who didn’t grow up in a time where horoscopes were a part of fringe ‘new age’ behaviour witnessed in the seventies.
Knowing your star, moon and rising signs are now as usual as someone knowing what kind of ‘body shape’ they have. In 2020, Co-Star and Instagram Live tarot readings are to millennials what knowing if you had more pear-shaped or apple-shaped hips in the noughties. The characteristics of star signs have also become politicised with common astrological traits narrowing down how one thinks and therefore, how one votes.
But now, as we are in the middle of a global pandemic, with most of us at home for what has now been months, the future of astrology is at a tipping point. For some (especially those who are ‘@ing’ their favourite astrologer online), there’s anger towards astrologists for not predicting this mayhem. For others, horoscopes have become once again something fun to read to pass the time while for others, the hope behind astrology has become a form of affirmation, in order to get through the day.
For astrologer Marissa Malik, these times of uncertainty means: “More people have been reaching out for tarot and natal chart readings alike.” And she also notes how this specific moment is interesting.
“The unprecedented nature of the pandemic combined with social isolation (and a slew of retrogrades) is putting many people in a position to do inner work that the pace of general life doesn’t usually permit. With that introspection can often come a need for external validation through astrology and tarot. That’s where I come in!”
That’s perhaps why 22-year-old Master’s student in London, Rachana, who’s an avid horoscope reader, is checking in on her horoscope more than ever: “It helps me understand my emotions, patterns and also helps me to process and accept events and experiences,” she told Screen Shot. “During this period especially I feel like [my horoscope] has helped me to remain calm and accept my reality. It’s not that it really provides me with definite predictions but it helps me to go deeper and understand myself as a person,” added Rachana.
Similarly, entrepreneur and Strategically Winging It podcast host Sonya Barlow feels that “horoscopes have become a bigger deal in these last few weeks, especially during COVID-19 as it’s helped align life, love and spirituality.” Her routine has even changed as “I wake up and my sister, who has learned tarot, will explain the [daily] horoscope to me and our mum.”
Interestingly enough, when I asked my Instagram followers on their experience with astrology, the response felt universes away. Many replied to the tune of ‘What’s the point?’ and ‘What’s going to change so much while I’m at home?’.
To that, we could argue, what was the point of it anyway, even before the coronavirus crisis? The hype that then translated into the horoscope pages being the most read work for publications such as Refinery29 and Dazed. Furthermore, in 2019, top astrology apps in the US were worth $40 million, a 65 per cent rise from 2018. The astrology zeitgeist boom in recent years shaped how we see each other.
Is the business of astrology dying during the global pandemic simply because it didn’t predict this? Are most of us at home thinking ‘what’s the point in it now’? I’m not sure. Just like faith and spirituality, in the end, it comes down to how much you believe in it and what it is doing for you. What we are witnessing, however, is the astrological trend among millennials slowly diverting. There’s now a more clear divide between people who depend on astrology and believe strongly in it and those who take it for what it is for them at a specific time.
Now, the real question is: What’s next for astrology among those in their 20s and 30s? Like everything else right now, who knows? Maybe it’s up in the stars.
At some point in the nineteen-eighties, my mum had an astrology phase. She spent a few months studying stars, planets and the sky, but all that is left thirty years later are some books and an amazing set of moon shaped earrings. So, growing up my house had bookshelves filled with books titled things like ‘Planets in Composite’ and ‘Star Signs for Lovers’ and when my brother and I fought it was thought to be because of our matching fire signs. These books had pages that I poured over as I highlighted all the Leo traits I possessed before at around age ten, I found my birth chart that a family friend had bound in gold starred pages, which detailed how the stars would shape my life. Lots of things even then felt true, the complexities of personality and layers of what I love were written out in a way that I felt like I had dictated them myself.
Astrology, star signs and asking ‘when’s your birthday’ on first dates have come to define parts of who I am. I have my mum’s old star charts hanging in my living room and over lingering dinners friends and I discuss our sun, moon and rising signs. It was only just a few years ago that I felt weird knowing what my ‘moon sign’ was and how it affected aspects of my life. But these days with everyone’s Instagram feeds full of ‘star sign bingos’ and iconic @notallgeminis memes, it seems that astrology isn’t only on the rise, but at the core of our internet identities.
Originating way back in 3000 BC somewhere in Mesopotamia, astrology’s appeal has never stopped enduring in places like India where they have their own form of astrology that rules over everything from marriages to moving home. But how and why did it shift from that to its modern millennial appeal where every star sign has its own meme page? Did it start with fashion? Sometimes I think so. In a world where we love to personalise everything from our bags to our phones, owning things emblazoned with our horoscope seems like just another facet of it. Vetements horoscope t-shirts have sold out in every sign, Charlotte Olympia made Aries adorned slippers and it now feels like every online jewellery brand has a charm or pendant in the shapes of all twelve zodiac signs.
So, what is it that artists and designers are drawn to in astrology? I asked illustrator Agustina Basile why she is inspired by it in her lush drawings. “I love that each sign tells a specific story and has its own personality, and stories are what I want to reflect in all my illustrations. The planets, houses and degrees all influence the unique behaviour of the signs within an astral chart, and I like that the study of my own chart makes me identify more with certain signs than others when I’m drawing.” And obviously, that’s the irony of it all. That in our bid to personalise everything in our lives through highly individualised algorithms, we’ve overlooked the possibility that we might just be categorising ourselves into one of twelve vague and general star signs. I see that and I can acknowledge the paradox, but it doesn’t change that I just like reading my horoscope because of how it makes me feel.
It seems that every website, magazine and newspaper have horoscopes sections that for years have been educating us about Saturn returns and moon cycles as a little page of respite amongst news and gossip. If I look back at the times in my life when I’ve read horoscopes religiously or pulled out my gold gilded birth chart book, they have been times when I have felt lost and when any guidance or advice would have been needed. I spoke to my favourite horoscope writer Madame Clairevoyant whose horoscopes for NY Mag’s The Cut are some of the most beautiful pieces of prose published on the internet. I asked her what she thinks people get out of reading her weekly horoscopes. “Many of us can feel ourselves being constantly acted upon by forces bigger than ourselves—whether that’s economic forces like low wages and student debt, or whether it’s the vast structures of misogyny in the world. Astrology allows us to look to something that’s bigger than ourselves, but that doesn’t have the same kind of heaviness or history of oppression. Feeling connected to an astrological sign can be just for you, without a ‘purpose’ other than to understand yourself and how to live in the world. For me, horoscopes are most meaningful as a way to create space for holding and experiencing our emotions. And ultimately, it’s okay to take what resonates with you, and leave behind what doesn’t.”
I’m not surprised that I like Madame Clairevoyant’s sentiment about this, I thank her for her thoughts and choose not to tell her that I have screenshots of all her Leo readings saved in my phone for when I need them most. It leaves me wondering that what if in our modern absence of religion we are all just trying to find comfort amongst the chaos of the world by identifying with a star sign and in the hope that planets will shift in our favour. I don’t dwell on it for too long though, (maybe that’s my dreamy Aquarius moon) so I follow @astromemequeen and continue to save meditative minutes every week to read my horoscope.